EXCITING THINGS ARE HAPPENING FOR THE CASS FOOTBALL PROGRAM. Last season, the Colonels, who historically haven’t had the greatest program, advanced to the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs before losing a heartbreaker to Mays 34-27.
This season, the Colonels return lots of talent, have a young crop of upcoming players, and look to continue to keep things trending in the right direction. But before anything else is said and done, Cass coach Steve Gates sends a quick message.
“We are still extremely young. We have several players with Division I offers but some of them are still 14 and 15-year-olds. There is a lot of stuff about us on social media but that doesn’t mean a hill of beans when 14 and 15-year-olds are still having to go against a 17 or 18-year-old,” Gates says. “Just because social media says we are high and mighty doesn’t mean anything. We have three incredibly talented seniors but literally the next group are all sophomores and juniors.”
Those three seniors do pack a mighty punch for the Colonels. Devin Henderson was an all-state defensive back last season and the Region 7-5A Defensive Player of the Year. Kevin Henderson was all-state and all-region as a linebacker and Sacovie White was all-state as a wide receiver and was the region special teams player of the year.
Those three form a dangerous backbone of what promises to be an interesting Cass squad.
“There are the normal Sacovies, Devins, and Kevins that everybody knows about. And they are great players,” Gates says. “But we’ve also got some other guys who are really good too like Jakai Baldwin, Chase Tatum, and Jeremiah Deroche.”
Gates notes that Baldwin, a second-team all-region defensive back last season, is an unsung hero for the team and one of the best shutdown corners around.
“He shuts down the other side of the field, and I have 100 percent confidence about him guarding any receiver he faces this year,” Gates says.
Tatum, a sophomore tight end, has spent most of his life playing baseball and is just now morphing into a football player.
“He’s (Tatum) about 6’3” and 200 pounds and plays centerfield in baseball. He’s just now starting to realize how good he can be in football,” Gates says. “He’s somebody we are going to be counting on big time this season.”
Deroche is a rising junior inside linebacker that Gates says will be in charge of the box on defense.
The Colonels also bring back first-team all-region players Brodie McWhorter at quarterback, Mac Nelson at running back, and Kaden Ellis at defensive tackle, giving the Colonels plenty of experience and star power across the field.
“Brodie is only a sophomore, and he’s already getting lots of looks from major schools,” Gates says. “He’s just a sophomore though and sometimes makes sophomore mistakes. Then he will turn around and make an elite throw, and you can see how much potential he has.”
Another key thing about Gates and the Colonels is that they don’t shy away from playing top teams. Cass opens the season this year again in the Corky Kell Classic against Rome at Barron Stadium on Aug. 18. The Wolves were a Class 6A Semifinal team last year.
“I don’t try to pad the schedule and just have us play Joey Bag of Donuts to get wins,” Gates says. “I want these kids to learn to deal with adversity and learn to deal with failure. That makes winning against the teams you beat that much more gratifying.”
Gates loves his players’ attitudes when they do go out and play top-notch teams.
“My kids will fight. They are not afraid of anybody now. In the past, when we would have a difficult game I would hear the rumblings ahead of time. Now I’m hearing that we get to play an opponent instead of we have to play an opponent,” he says. “That sentiment and that belief has already changed and the opportunity is there to showcase what we have. Anything can happen in any game fumbles, penalties, and turnovers.”
The Colonels also face a tough region 7-5A slate, which includes games against Cartersville, Calhoun, and Dalton. But the Colonels are used to it and with a few name players everyone knows and a few others people will learn about this year, Cass is primed to try to make another run into the Class 5A State Playoffs.